Editor’s Note: The following interview features a GreenBook Future List honoree, Rob Turnbull. The GreenBook Future List recognizes leadership, professional growth, personal integrity, passion, and excellence in the next generation of consumer insights and marketing professionals within the first 10 years of their careers.

Introducing Rob Turnbull

As a Senior Research Analyst, Rob helps brands and agencies understand Twitter better. He is passionate about finding meaningful answers to questions about society and culture online. As an innovator with a background in analytics, he is an expert in combining first- and third-party data to provide insight that informs decision making. In his six years with the marketing insights and analytics function at Twitter, he has driven the use of internal data in thought leadership and audience research. Rob has been featured in Impact Magazine and was a finalist for the UK’s Market Research Society and Mediatel Rising Star awards.

What’s a fun fact about yourself that would surprise people to know?

I was once a bassist in a metal band. We never made it further than our local battle of the bands gig, but I massively enjoyed the rush of adrenaline I would get when performing. Whether it is by taking part in sport, speaking at conferences, or when I played a gig, I continuously seek out activities that make me slightly uncomfortable and get my heart racing. Even if my other friends and family would always tell me how much they disliked the music we played!


If you could go back in time to when you first started your career, what advice would you give to your younger self?

#1 Your career is a marathon, not a sprint.

Having played organised sport all my life, I have always been very naturally competitive. At times this has been an advantage, but as I started my career in research, I realised that it could equally become an obstacle. Most good things take time to develop, and I’ve come to be much more accepting of this. Since then, my confidence at work has increased and I’ve felt much less self-pressure.

#2 Value your health.

The pandemic has proven to me that my ability to work effectively and productively is highly correlated with my environment – physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s been extremely important for me to protect these elements of myself throughout this period, and at times I’ve taken time back from work to maintain healthy relationships with friends and family, and prioritize other experiences. I would ask myself to build a strong sense of work-life balance from day one.

#3 Trust your instinct.

Like all researchers, I have a very natural curiosity. I often find myself falling down rabbit holes on Wikipedia or YouTube, following an urge to find answers to questions about online culture or society. As a young researcher, I would often second guess this instinct, but it has led me down many paths that were all essential in me becoming the researcher I am today. This includes finding a role and industry that values curiosity above everything.


How did you get your start in insights? Did you know that this is what you wanted to do, or did you fall into it?

I studied History and Politics at university, and growing up I was always inquisitive, often to the point of getting me in trouble with my teachers. The insights industry would have been a natural home for me, but it wasn’t something I was aware of until after a few years of working.

I’ve always really enjoyed sports, both as a participant and a consumer. Originally, I wanted to work in sports marketing and dreamt of working at the Olympics or Tour de France. Fortunately, my first position post-education was in a very varied junior marketing role for a large sports equipment retailer. I came into contact with all different aspects of marketing, but I was much more drawn to the few insights-centered topics I got to experience. This included the company’s first-ever market research study, which focused on a new customer segmentation strategy. From then I knew I wanted to work in this area, particularly in the digital space. In my downtime, I taught myself SQL online as a hobby and then interviewed for a Marketing Analyst role at one of the UK’s largest charities, and my career in insights started there.


What is something you’ve built or launched that you’re proud of?

For #Euro2020 I designed and built a product for delivering real-time insights from Twitter data to internal teams across 16 markets for 51 individual fixtures. This system supplied content for 300+ pieces of marketing material, including videos, one-pagers, and slides in nine different languages. It was first-of-its-kind, and the output featured heavily across Twitter’s B2B channels during the tournament – including the Twitter Marketing blog and Twitter o&o handles. Although England lost in the final (a source of great discontent for me), this was a great success and was widely used by marketing, sales, comms, and public policy teams globally. I’ve always been slightly obsessed with surfacing Twitter data for insights, so to be able to build this and see it succeed is a massive source of pride. We’ve already started planning version 2.0 for the World Cup later this year.


What changes would you like to see reflected in the industry over the next five years?

The ultimate purpose of insights is to help people make decisions. In my experience, market research, data science, business intelligence, and other insights-led functions operate too exclusively and are often confusing, and at worst contradictory. All of these teams are components for finding answers to the most difficult business questions.

I believe that the blending of research and analytics is the future of the industry, and necessary given that we’re now operating amongst an expanding ocean of first- and third-party information. Over the next five years, I would like to see more meaningful collaboration between these functions so that we can draw out actionable insight that has true depth and context to better support and inform decision-making.

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